Sunday, January 4, 2009

Long Poems & Books

Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast

Red Dragonfly Press, 2008

"Throughout Metamorphoses of the

Sleeping Beast, Dale Jacobson speaks
for the unspoken, the victimized,
the disillusioned, and does so eloquently,
forcefully, in a voice filled with beauty
and moral indignation."  

 --Robert Hedin

"Dale Jacobson is a poet of lyric praise and political vision.  
Like Tom McGrath, Jacobson's late friend and mentor, 
he comes to his topics from growing up and working in the farms and 
canning factories of the great prairie of the northern mid-west.  If there 
is a politics in his poetry as there is in McGrath's, it is as spiritually 
suffused with nature as William Blake's, as imagistic and allusively 
argued as Neruda's, and as American as a coyote on a hilltop outside 
of town waking us up with his lyrical, plaintive song."  
     --John Balaban
And now, Dale Jacobson of Minnesota and North Dakota, has come with another splendid collection of his works: Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast. It's an attractive book with sixty plus poems -- all of this finely tuned and honed radical stuff -- plus a full and nicely done introduction by Scott King of Northfield, MN. Available from Red Dragonfly Press, Box 406, Red Wing, MN 55066. [$14.95] Dale's e address is .

The book is divided into several quite interrelated sections: Talking with the Keeper of Nightmares, Hands Lifted in the Sun, Lost and Found Among Women, Punctual Eternities.

In the first, Nightmares, this caught my own oft-blacklisted Ishmaelite eye immediately: Upon Not Being Invited To Read On That "Common Ground" -- and this promise therein:

"But one day I'll walk through those
great doors: arrive in the middle of
some fancy fable like a trespasser
in my own back yard -- and among
those academics carry a dead bleeding
rabbit and thump it down with the sound
of a mute thing falling hard upon
my own long-loved unforgiving ground --
the way the poor learn despair -- and say:

"Until you see its gentle huge eyes glow
black and fierce, and its shape rise
like a ragged nightmare bird 
from the center of Lake Marshall
with moonlight like phosphorous burning
on its wings, whatever you say 
about this ground: is a goddamned lie."

Hands Lifted contains intricately done reflections on unique and positive human beings with whom Dale has had much contact. They range, among others, from Lilly Francis, a part-Choctaw psychic from Pearl River County, MS and a great English teacher at UND and a great human being -- to the radical poet, Tom McGrath, a long-time associate of Dale's; and to another close friend of his, the Left writer Meridel LeSueur. [And well, yes, I'm honored to be in there as well.]

Lost and Found Among Women contains its own unique, fine nuggets:

After A Phone Call
- Therese

"Far from her voice that arrives
like a vegetable vine
of traveling blossoms - like
the squash we raise
close to the earth - I study
the moon over the prairie,
the same moon that casts
its light upon that distant city
and brightens the road between -
a blazing patch on this floor -
while the same light shines
in her eyes there: one hour."

Punctual Eternities continues Dale's radical perspective: is rooted in Nature, reflective, optimistic. Its final piece, Songs Of The Seasons, carries this as the conclusion:

"Mourning doves, crows and sparrows:
winds of song make public the brooding soil.
And we open doors, speak and build
what light we can, dreamers of the earth's dream:

metamorphoses of the sleeping beast."

Dale Jacobson's work sensitively delineates and feathers out the vitally human dimensions of individuals, communities, issues, struggle, hope. He provides Life and Optimism -- in addition to Insight and Courage. Without becoming entangled in spider webs of intricate "ideology," he consistently remains a visionary radical in the best American and Human traditions. His is the "oak wood fire" that burns long indeed -- into the future and far beyond.

I miss the days when he and I -- and sometimes a few others -- would get together at Hardees's in Grand Forks, ND to talk about radical creative works and the myriad of racial and class injustices in the Northern Plains and far beyond. 

We always left those sessions committed to Keep Fighting.


Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Eastern Idaho

Exile in My Homeland
Authorhouse 2005

Exile In My Home Land, though an
autonomous poem, develops from two
previous long poems, Factories and Cities
and A Walk by the River, bringing
together their manifestly separate themes,
history and politics on one hand,
and metaphysical questions of loss
and mortality on the other.

Ranging through the author's personal experience, the poem confronts
the destructive as well as constructive forces operating beyond individual

control that nonetheless define our lives. Working from his childhood as
a reference, the poem wants to make sense of these various powers, often
ruthless and absolute, which present themselves as either human constructions
such as war, or the inexorable forces of nature.

"Jacobson has unusual gifts ... He was the most brilliant student I have 
ever had ... I am sure he will become one of the best poets in the country."
     --Thomas McGrath

If ordered from the author: $12 postpaid (signed upon request)

A Walk By The River : A Long Poem

Original wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec

Red Dragonfly Press 2004

"The river goes on flowing

indecently oblivious, opening
deep doors of its own darkness.

"There the shadows of sons
flow into the shadows of fathers
which flow into the shadows
of their fathers--a long regression
of sons, songs, daughters,
mothers and fathers in the murky
night of water toward the deep
undersea currents..."

"I've come to conclude that Dale Jacobson's A Walk by the River is a masterpiece."
–Larry Woiwode, poet laureate of North Dakota

"Dale Jacobson's A Walk by the River is a masterfully written poem,
full of depth and resonance, and quintessentially American. The poem's
current pulls you in and sweeps you along on its spiritual journey."
      –Robert Hedin

""I cannot imagine my own annihilation," said Walt Whitman, but 
Dale Jacobson imagines this very thing in language that Whitman 
would have loved and in ways that he would have cheered.  A Walk 
by the River is filled with metaphysical musings, inquiries into 
mortality, but this Dante does not descend into the underworld 
for answers; he stays under the stars, on the banks of a discernibly 
Midwestern river, trusting his own imagination to carry him on, endlessly."
     --Joyce Sutphen

"One of the central and most generally averted themes of our times..."
     --Jack Beeching 

"Such a fine poem!  I was reminded of Rilke when I first read it and 
even moreso now that I'm returning to Rilke... a true masterwork!"
      --Floyce Alexander

Factories and Cities
1st Books Library 2003

"While the mighty engines turn,
and the dynamos purr
like demons feeding the gargoyle lamps of the labyrinthine
streets, our cars take us neither closer to nor farther from
home, beneath the high stone buildings with shadows cool
as slate–
and ourselves
near always to the past like distance
to the stars"

"Factories and Cities embodies the venom and beauty that survived
the ravages of what Elizabeth Bishop once called "our worst century
so far" and it does so with both venom and beauty to spare."
     --Floyce Alexander

If ordered from the author $12 postpaid (signed upon request)



Therese Masters Jacobson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Therese Masters Jacobson said...

Your writings have caused me to reexamine our existence and purpose here. Thank you, dear one.

Catherine McCartney said...


Your site looks great! I look forward to visiting often!